Lexical trends in State of the Union addresses, 1945-2006

Here are some lexical trends in State of the Union addresses from 1945 to 2006. I won’t comment too much on these, which show obvious trends alongside some unexpected ones. Pay attention to more than the rise and fall of the y-axes. Also pay attention to the dates along the X-axes. The more dates listed, the more often the issue is evoked in a SotU address. A term appearing a few times each year can be as interesting as a term that appears a lot every few decades. Like always, I ran these frequency distributions using a startswith command in Python. So, if I searched for a term ‘religio’, it was to count ‘religious’ and ‘religion’ as one, or if I searched ‘German’, it ensured ‘German’ and ‘Germany’ were both counted.

1. What nations earn a presidential shout-out throughout the decades?

Apparently, we’re far more invested in countries far away from us than countries that share our borders. I think it shows how solid our relationships have been with Canada and Mexico for the past six decades. And why not? Mexico and America are in a symbiotic relationship: Mexico gets to avoid revolution by sending their starving proletariat across the border and American business gets an endless supply of cheap labor in the process. And Canada . . . well, what can you say about Canada? Not a lot, according to SotU speeches.

2. Other issues . . .

No one cares about going to space, anymore . . .

The 90s. Bills for LBJ’s Great Society programs start rolling in.

I have no idea what’s up with this trend. Fewer marriages? Dissolution of the nuclear family?

3. Terrorism: the new Communism. 

4. Religious references . . . Regan really liked to make them.

6. Gender and race . . .

Post-1970s equality of the sexes (defined as equality of reference in SotU speeches). Gender-inclusivity is the new norm in these speeches. This is probably the most striking trend I’ve uncovered.

The spikes are obviously in response to the 1965 Civil Rights act.

That’s all for now. If anyone has any search requests (either in the SotU corpus or the Inaugural Address corpus), leave a comment and I’ll post them.

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